This impales the notion that reform of Islam is the West’s best hope when all we see is Islam strengthened and the West caving at every turn…
The former cultural editor for the Jyllands-Posten, Flemming Rose, speaking in Helsinki a few years ago, addressed these issues on national Finnish TV, if you haven’t read it/listened to the speech, it’s available here.
30 Years After the Rushdie Fatwa, Europe Is Moving Backward
Blasphemy laws have been given new life on the continent.
The Charlie Hebdo murders on Jan. 7, 2015, were an especially instructive case in point. On that day, the brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi burst into the magazine’s offices and executed 12 people, including cartoonists and journalists. Before fleeing, the brothers shouted, “We have avenged the Prophet Mohammed!” whom Charlie Hebdo had lampooned in several disrespectful cartoons. These executions might not have been too shocking to 18th-century Europeans. (In 1766, Jean-François de la Barre was decapitated and then burned along with a copy of Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary for his “monstrous, execrable blasphemies against God … and the Church.”)
Today’s European leaders, by contrast, were quick to condemn the attack and reassert their commitment to free speech. European Council President Donald Tusk expressed his shock at the “brutal attack against our fundamental values, against freedom of expression which is a pillar of our democracy.”
But despite the unanimous rhetorical support for free speech after Charlie Hebdo, blasphemy bans have become more firmly anchored in some parts of the continent in recent years. In a recent case, the European Court of Human Rights even reaffirmed that European human rights law recognizes a right not to have one’s religious feelings hurt. The court based its decision on the deeply flawed assumption that religious peace and tolerance may require the policing rather than the protection of “gratuitously offensive” speech. Accordingly, it found that Austria had not violated freedom of expression by convicting a woman for having called the Prophet Mohammed a “pedophile.”
Some have argued that the court’s decision was a necessary defense of an embattled Muslim minority vulnerable to bigotry and religious hatred. But laws against religious insult and blasphemy are generally different from hate speech laws—which are problematic in themselves—that purportedly protect people rather than abstract religious ideas and dogmas.
Moreover, laws against blasphemy and religious insult frequently protect the majority against minorities and dissenters. In Spain, the actor and activist Willy Toledo was arrested and now faces prosecution for “offending religious feelings” after being reported to the police by an association of Catholic lawyers. Toledo had written a particularly salty Facebook post: “I shit on God and have enough shit left over to shit on the dogma of the holiness and virginity of the Virgin Mary.” Toledo’s Facebook rant was provoked by the criminal investigation of three Spanish women’s rights activists who paraded a giant effigy of a vagina through the streets of Seville, imitating popular Catholic processions.